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It's budget time at my agency, and we're planning to move to Exchange 2010 next year. We are a small shop, so we just want to run a two-server cluster of Exchange, providing fail-over safety if one server has an issue.

We run this scenario now, however, next year we'd like to move this to a virtual environment. What VMWare software is necessary for this to work?

Currently we own a VMWare Infrastructure 3 Foundation license, and run ESXi on our VM host. I would imagine that we have all we need there. We could run two VMs with Windows 2008 Enterprise, and from the Windows and Exchange server's perspective, clustering should work the same. I think.

Can anyone else confirm, or shed more light on the topic? Thanks!

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7 Answers 7

So Exchange IS supported on SVVP qualified virtualization platforms which includes HyperV and VMWare VI.

Exchange 2010 however has a completely new high availability model which is not at all traditional clustering. I would encourage you to research this (specifically DAGs) and how they work when considering your VMWare deployment here.

Additionally DAGs are not supported with VMWare HA (as in doesn't work).

Thanks, Brian Desmond Active Directory MVP

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Not sure I entirely see what you are after. But if you set up a cluster of two VMs on the same machine, that kind of defeats much of the purpose of clustering. You will be adding the overhead of two virtualized OSes, and if the actual machine fails you will lose both.

As far as witch VMware product is needed, it really just depends on what features you want. I have Exchange 2003 running perfectly stable on VMware server 1.x with a Linux as the host machine.

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You make a good point. We should probably run the exchange server VMs on separate VM hosts as well. But even if they are on the same box, the idea would be to a) have fail-over protection of a software crash of one server, and b) allow us to patch the individual Exchange servers without taking down Exchange entirely. We also use Mimecast, so if both servers did go down we could fail-over to the cloud to get our mail, in case that helps explain our position coming into this. –  Ken Pespisa Aug 28 '09 at 14:03
    
Right, that would be the advantage. As far as patching goes, the main advantage I think is the ability to take a snapshot before you do apply the patches. VMWare server supports snapshots, but only one. So you might want something that supports multiple snapshots. –  Kyle Brandt Aug 28 '09 at 14:05
    
I think that is one snapshot per vm, but I might be wrong at the one –  Kyle Brandt Aug 28 '09 at 14:06

Where I used to work employed VMware ESX and VMotion to handle their AD DCs and Exchange servers.

When implemented, there were 6 physical servers, 5 fully used at any given time.

Each of the pair of DCs took nearly a full server's capacity. Likewise, each of the two Exchange servers used nearly a full server's resources.

All VMs lived on a SAN.

By turning-on VMotion, in the event that any physical server had load issues, VMware would move the server from the failing machine to a lightly-loaded one.

It works great - handling several thousand active users.

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are you wanting to put both servers on the same host computer? I would suggest getting another small server put 1 VM on each and look into VM Ware's high availability options so if 1 box dies it will fail it over to the other.

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One thing to keep in mind is that unless something had changed, Microsoft didn't support Exchange in a virtualized environment. I don't know if that factors into your support plans. This may have changed now that MS is pushing Hyper-V, though.

Here's a whitepaper right from VMWare on best practices with hosting an Exchange server.

EDIT: more info on support from MS and virtualized environments is here.

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+1 That is a good thing to know that it is not supported. Won't stop me from doing it, but I will remember not to mention it if I ever try to get support ;-) –  Kyle Brandt Aug 28 '09 at 14:09
    
since when has it not been supported? I know a lot of companies and universities that are running Exchange in a virtutalized environment with full support from MS. –  warren Oct 17 '09 at 7:40
    
the article you cite is for Windows 2k8. My experience with VMware and Exchange was with 2k3. –  warren Oct 17 '09 at 7:42
    
and the link you provide also goes to here: windowsservercatalog.com/svvp.aspx - which clearly states what VMware is a partner. –  warren Oct 17 '09 at 7:43
    
@warren: Then the situation had changed...I can tell you that back when I was looking at this type of virtualization before Exchange was not a supported configuration to use. –  Bart Silverstrim Oct 17 '09 at 20:32

I currently host an Exchange 2007 cluster under VMware without issue.

You'll need some sort of shared storage that can be presented over iSCSI for the Quorum drive of the cluster. The other disks which hold the Exchange databases can be local disks to the VM.

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@Kyle The benefit Ken would gain from running two instances on a single physical box would be in case the operating system inside one of the vms went nutty. Ive seen exchange poo itself so many times in the past it sounds like something I would do.

@Ken As for what you would need. You would need the High Availability (HA) or Fault Tolerant (FT) ability in VMware (depending on how you want your redundancy. FT runs two instances in lock step, HA just fails over.

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You wouldn't need HA or FT for the scenario he described. He only has one VM host, buying HA or FT would b useless wtha single host. –  ITGuy24 Dec 22 '09 at 21:05

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